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    Collaboration: Susan Klein+ PURE Theatre | Thu. Dec. 3, 2015

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    Last year, the Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art and PURE Theatre created an alliance to bring together the gallery and the stage and this November the results of that artistic collaboration can be seen in the set design artist Susan Klein has created for a PURE production.

    As Klein finalized her work for the Halsey exhibition Shadow Things which opened October 24th, she was also working with the team at PURE theatre to set design their upcoming show, Failure: A Love Story written by Phillip Dawkins and directed by Rodney Lee Rogers. The play is a tale of three hapless sisters who encounter love and loss on their journeys through life. While Klein’s art for Shadow Things was made for the purpose of showcasing her artistic vision, set designing for Failure: A Love Story was a true lesson in the collaborative process of theatre. Through the process, Susan joined forces with the lighting designer and the director, and referred back to the script in order to create a cohesive vision of the set.

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    While the practices are different, similar subjects emerge in both the exhibition and the play. Themes of loss, time, and space present themselves in both Klein’s exhibition and her set, truly bringing to light the shared nature of the work. The central piece in Shadow Things is entitled Mausoleum and was partially inspired by Klein’s trip to Weissensee Cemetery in Berlin this past summer, while death has a recurring role in the play as well. Motifs in Klein’s art are also easily identified in the PURE set in terms of its formal characteristics, with the presence of similar geometric patterns and color palettes including the predominance of a mournful blue, and the technique of layering. In the gallery, the piece Mooring is mounted on a large, orange X. Similar X’s appear in Klein’s set in the interior of the car, on the floor of the set, and carved into boxes that sit on the trailer. Mooring also emphasizes Klein’s layering technique by showing how a white and black grid overlaps an orange grid, which then overlaps the background of the piece. Klein’s layering technique can be found in the set with the draped material hung on the walls of PURE’s theatre space.

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    The three of us, all College of Charleston students, have been acquainted with each other for a while, but we never thought we would team up in a professional setting. In the spirit of collaboration, we, have now experienced firsthand the successful partnership between the Halsey and PURE. It’s a partnership that celebrates when diverse artists, designers, professors, students and professionals come together to create groundbreaking work. As two arts organizations in Charleston known to foster meaningful interactions between artist(s) and audience in the hopes of sparking thought, discussion, and ideas, this collaboration promotes community involvement. Community members not only have a way to see Klein’s work in a gallery setting, but in a theatrical setting as well. A Talkback after the show with the artist, director and playwright, as well as an artist lecture, and gallery walkthrough are all available to the public and relate back to the collaboration.

    Failure: A Love Story opened November 6th at PURE Theatre and runs through November 28th and the talk-back is after the performance on November 12th. Get your tickets here. You can catch Klein’s exhibition, Shadow Things at the Halsey Institute through December 5th and her lecture and gallery talk on November 21st at 2pm.

    By Victoria Blunt, Halsey Institute intern with Rachel Feldman and Haydn Haring, Dramaturgs for Failure: A Love Story. All three are College of Charleston students.

     

    Weißensee Cemetery and the art of Susan Klein | Mon. Nov. 23, 2015

    Berlin’s Weißensee Jewish Cemetery is the largest Jewish cemetery in Europe, home to more than 115,000 graves. Inaugurated in 1880, the cemetery has become a historical landmark. A section of the cemetery holds the remains of 12,000 German soldiers who fought in WWI and is set aside as a memorial park, and during WWII, many religious artifacts, including Torah scrolls and silver ornaments, were saved from the Nazis by hiding them inside mausoleums. The grounds are beautiful–quiet forests, obscured rows of stone markers, and natural wildlife are just some of its many charms. Susan Klein visited this historic cemetery this past summer, and I was able to ask her about the trip and how it influenced the work in her current exhibition at the Halsey Institute, Shadow Things.

    blog 1UntitledPhoto by Deutsche Welle staff

    What initially drew you to the Weißensee Jewish Cemetery?

    I hadn’t initially planned on going, and didn’t even know it existed. Towards the end of my time in Berlin I felt a kind of guilt or responsibility to know more about the history of Jews in the city, so I went on a walking tour. I had been procrastinating doing “Jewish” stuff because it felt cliché to me: Jewish artist goes to Berlin, researches WWII, and makes work about the holocaust. This is exactly what I wanted to avoid!

    The tour guide on this walking tour told me about Weißensee and I decided to see it for myself. He promised me it was beautiful and worth the trek.

     

    During WWII, Weißensee Jewish Cemetery acted as a safe hiding space not only for Jewish artifacts and religious ritual objects, but for families as well. Today, young families rent apartments on the grounds, high school students work on art projects, and ornithologists study birds of prey. Did the idea of this space unifying life and death influence your work?

    I don’t think so, but I like that idea! So maybe! I was more interested in the compression of time, the layers of history that place holds. The aesthetics of the cemetery influenced the work…maybe part of it stems from grappling with how I aestheticize everything….think of “Detroit Porn” or pictures made lovely out of hardship and destruction. I liked how Weißensee was melancholy and beautiful. But my feelings of romanticism towards the site are ludicrous when you think of the history….

     

    Many of the grave plots are arranged into sections of individual geometric shapes. Did these shapes play a role in the development of your work?

    Not on a conscious level, but I think everything filters in. So, probably!

     

    You’ve spoken about how urns are a significant motif in your work for this show; one section of the Weißensee Jewish Cemetery contains approximately 300 urns. Were these urns one of your main sources of inspiration? How exactly did you incorporate the urn motif into your work?

    I was using the urn before I went to the cemetery. The urn is an object: its object function is to hold the ashes of the dead. The urn is a symbol: used decoratively in formal gardens, on tombstones, in art. The urn reflects back to us our desire for death and our simultaneous longing to hold onto life. Weißensee certainly fed me with new visual and conceptual information, though! The urns pop up literally in the work, and shapes kept turning into urns even if it wasn’t intentional. Some pieces contain more of a figurative urn: encasements, barriers, etc.

     

    By Jill Dowdy, Halsey Institute Intern

    Multiple Meanings in the work of Jiha Moon | Mon. Nov. 16, 2015

    Call me mad, but I’ve come to understand Jiha Moon’s work as a reincarnation of impressionism.  Though a stretch from the 19th century movement, Moon’s work captures a moment in time – a sort of sociological impression of culture that layers traditional and modern symbols which permeate time and space.  From a distance, Moon’s paintings are a delightful discourse in color, but if you take the time to move closer you will see there is much more than meets the eye.  

    The current exhibition, Jiha Moon: Double Welcome, Most Everyone’s Mad Here, explores the double meanings of familiar symbols associated with particular cultures.  On the surface, these collisions of culture can be understood as a reflection of Moon’s own cultural background.  Born and raised in Daegu, Korea, she is now a resident of Atlanta, Georgia.  The peach, an icon represented and transformed throughout Moon’s work, is simultaneously a traditional symbol of longevity in Korea and a recognized symbol of Georgia in the United States. Once diving deeper into her layered works, it becomes clear that Moon’s playful point of view on a serious subject demonstrates the all-too-human obsession and fascination with all things foreign.  She implements misunderstandings of culture, recognizing that we are all immigrants of some form or fashion and, as she explained in her artist talk for the Halsey Institute in October, misunderstanding is the first step to understanding.

    Objects and symbols Moon explores in her work include:

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    FORTUNE COOKIES:  Fortune cookies are a favorite in Jiha Moon’s ceramic works.  The fortune cookie is a lighthearted contradiction of culture all on its own – in the United States it is served as an after dinner treat in Chinese restaurants.  This assumed emblem of Chinese culture does not exist in China; it is actually a product of California! Modern confusions of origin are almost inevitable in today’s global, digital world.

    01. Traveler 48in x50.5in

    ANGRY BIRDS:  Recognizing the complementary shape of characters found in a popular digital game, Moon started incorporating angry birds in peach forms into her work. These images are represented in the same vein as Asian tigers and Indian gods – perhaps a question to the viewer as to why these symbols have taken such power in our digital world.

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    EMOJIS:  Moon also transforms Emojis to peach form.  These characters of Japanese origin are a technological adaptation to exchange emotion without the presence of body language in our digital age.  They are generally understood by people of all cultures, creating a single mode of expression without geological boundaries.

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    YELLOW: The color yellow is a focal point in many of Moon’s two-dimensional works.  Yellow is an exotic color – foreign for different reasons with different perspectives.  Throughout western history, yellow has been used as a derogatory descriptor of Asian skin tone.  In Asia, however, the word yellow describes a desired foreign hair color.  

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    MASKS:  No matter the origin, masks are often viewed as something quite foreign.  Moon uses masks throughout her work, even cutting holes as eyes of her intricate paintings.  I challenge you to count the number of faces in the exhibition’s namesake piece “Most Everyone’s Mad Here.”  Moon explains that art sometimes feels like too much of a one way relationship.  With the many faces of her work, you look at the art while the art looks back at you.

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    NORIGAE:  This exhibit features 19 mixed media works known as ‘norigae.’  Taking inspiration from much smaller versions of her creative reiterations, these ceramic and hair wall hangings are a transformation of traditional Korean folk craft. Moon and her assistants learned techniques for typing traditional norigae knots by watching YouTube videos. In the artist’s versions each piece takes on a personality of its own, moving away from a standard “craft” format and instead including one-of-a-kind ceramic jewels, beading in the hair and female names for titles.

    I admire Jiha Moon’s ability to comment on cultural interactions and misunderstandings.  The power of art often resides in the fact that the viewer is able to create their impressions of a work’s intended meaning.  Moon’s iconography plays to these multiple meanings in a way that encourages viewers to return to the art, and challenge their perceptions of culture.  Come be a tourist in Jiha Moon’s art and see which symbols resonate with you.

     

    By Kaylee Lass, Halsey Institute Intern

    Tokyo Style by Kyoichi Tsuzuki | Tue. Oct. 27, 2015

    2015-10-28-12.15Tokyo: the city itself filled to the brim with more than 13 million people, a number that swells by 2.5 million from workers and students entering the city from surrounding areas. This monolith of a city is only such in population, as Tokyo has the highest population density for land area of any other city on the globe. Now, we all have our own ideals of Japan, and most would probably include something about the Japanese—especially the Tokyo-ites—being inherently stylish and fashion-forward; to the point of seeming years ahead of Paris. And this style would, naturally, be reflected in the home dwellings of those future-oriented Tokyo residents, right?

     

     

     

    Tokyo Style (1997) by photographer/cultural documentarian Kyoichi Tsuzuki would suggest that our Western idea of home style is not exactly what is found in Tokyo, but just as in fashion, maybe Tokyo is simply anticipating the future for us.

     

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    The major difference between the modern Tokyo city residence and most residences across the United States is size. Most of the apartments and homes displayed in this volume show dinky, cupboard-sized living spaces, and many shared among several people: the rooms overflow with electronics, deftly balanced sets of books, records, coffee mugs filled to the top with cigarette butts, clothes lines sagging under the mass of laundry done all at once, kitchens with a seeming lack of utensils in place of other disparate objects. But in this flux and motion, Tokyo residents have found a way to personalize their spaces so that they become almost artistic in their representation of nearly every facet of a person’s life and personality.

     

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    What we see in the very limited selection of images above is the unadulterated home life of the Tokyo residents Mr. Tsuzuki captured. We can see how these people collect objects, how they express the significance of these objects, how they navigate their spaces, and how they interact with the culture at large.

     

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    In order to truly appreciate the work of Kyoichi Tsuzuki and the lives of these Tokyo residents, I urge you to spend some time flipping through the pages. What you see may shock you and it may inspire you, but ultimately it will communicate to you the variability and potentiality of small spaces, and will open your mind to a broader definition of zen.

     

    Kyoichi Tsuzuki notes something in this collection that seems applicable to the “new zen” of modern Tokyo dwellings:

    “Japanese nationalist thinker Ikki Kita proclaimed his vision of the essence of Japanese aesthetics, that ‘beauty is to be found in disarray.”

    Tokyo Style by Kyoichi Tsuzuki can be found on shelf 25 in the Halsey Institute Biblioteca.

     

    By Harvey Shiver, Special Projects Intern

     

    Visitor Reaction to the Work of Lonnie Holley | Wed. Oct. 14, 2015

    “You show us the incredible power of resilience”

    “Thank you for being who you are”

    “Powerful, beautiful art”

    “The most dynamic group of art”

    These are simply brief snippets of the engaging and wonderful comments garnered by Lonnie Holley’s mini-oeuvre; a collection that gave both the casual observer and art-historian a master class in development, resiliency, dynamism, and the power of experience. Holley’s work filled the Halsey Institute and breathed life into issues that are very poignant to the South, such as race, class, and inequality. The artist’s work also has a special quality that allows it to speak to the universal human experience; whether it be the collection of interwoven rings in Will the Circle be Unbroken or the simple message of Future Skateboard. Our visitors to this Halsey Institute show—young and old, near and far, even a couple all the way from the Netherlands—were treated to an artistic vision honed over years and years of conversation with the natural world around us, and those same visitors participated in Holley’s conversation by filling our guest book with thoughtful, inspirational comments about the power of art to translate experience between artist and viewer and back again.

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    Whether it is just writing your name or filling in a page, comments are both welcomed and encouraged—through them we learn about how the community is responding to our shows and these insights help us provide a world-class experience time and again here at the Halsey Institute. Below are images of all the comments for Lonnie Holley’s salient show Something to Take My Place, and we here at the Halsey Institute hope they inspire you to keep searching for those things in life that make it beautiful.

    By Harvey Shiver, Special Projects Intern

     

    Lonnie-Holley-Comment-Book--1 Lonnie-Holley-Comment-Book--2 Lonnie-Holley-Comment-Book--3 Lonnie-Holley-Comment-Book--4 Lonnie-Holley-Comment-Book--5 Lonnie-Holley-Comment-Book--6 Lonnie-Holley-Comment-Book-Pt-2-1 Lonnie-Holley-Comment-Book-Pt-2-2 Lonnie-Holley-Comment-Book-Pt-2-3 Lonnie-Holley-Comment-Book-Pt-2-5 Lonnie-Holley-Comment-Book-Pt-2-6

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    Lonnie Holley, Bill Arnett, and the Souls Grown Deep Foundation | Fri. Oct. 2, 2015

    At the opening of Something to Take My Place, I noticed that the artist, Lonnie Holley, would often be talking with another gentleman. There was a familiarity between the men; like two old friends, they chatted while observing the visitors looking at Lonnie’s work. I was in charge of taking photos for the opening and Lonnie came up to me and said, “Come here. Come take a picture of me and Bill next to Changing Power.” Little did I know that this gentleman was William S. Arnett, founder of the Souls Grown Deep Foundation a longtime patron of Lonnie Holley (since 1986).

     

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    Although the Souls Grown Deep Foundation was founded in 2010, its genesis dates back to the 1970s when art historian, scholar, and arts supporter, William S. Arnett, began a collection of artworks from little-known, self-taught African American artists. Meeting Lonnie and seeing his artwork proved to be a catalyst that would take William “Bill” Arnett’s interest to another level. When Arnett first stood in the presence of Holley and his art, he said, “I have been all over the world and have seen most of the art that the world considers great, but I have never been anywhere more important than here. Something is going on in the South that people do not appreciate fully, and it needs to be part of the history of art.” (from 1995 article, Souls Grown Deep) In the mid-1990s, Arnett used his extensive research, experiences, and vast collection of African American vernacular art to produce a two-volume book titled Souls Grown Deep: African American Vernacular Art of the South. Arnett’s passion and staunch determination led to the inception of the Souls Grown Deep Foundation in 2010.

     

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    The Souls Grown Deep Foundation is “dedicated to documenting, researching, preserving, and exhibiting the work of self-taught African American artists of the American South,” as noted on their website. Their hope is that the art made by Southern African American artists will not be segregated from other art forms and creative skills. The organization uses its collection of over 1200 artworks and field photographs to bring recognition to the artists and their art, as well as to “see its inclusion in the ‘real’ American art dialogue.” Their art collection has been featured in exhibitions in over thirty museums around the world and has inspired the production of thirteen publications. Their board of trustees are prominent professionals in the arts world including Maxwell Anderson, former Director of the Whitney Museum of American Art, Jacquelyn Serwer, Chief Curator of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, as well as other members of the Arnett family, scholar Bernard L. Herman and the actress Jane Fonda.

     

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    Rudy Gamble, 1978, Cotton, 88x 74 inches

    The Souls Grown Deep Foundation holds the works of over 150 artists including Lonnie Holley, Joe Minter, Cleveland Turner, Purvis Young and Gee’s Bend Quiltmakers among others. These artists have made a variety of work ranging from large assemblages to homemade quilts. Though many artists showcased by the Foundation have passed, those alive and active continue to receive support in order to keep creating art. The Souls Grown Deep Foundation also aids the artists in setting up exhibitions, showing their artwork in publications, and connecting them to other artists.

    Due to William Arnett’s efforts and the Souls Grown Deep Foundation’s dedication to showcasing African American art in the South, these artists have the freedom to share the stories of their ancestors, family, and themselves. Their progress has played a vital role in the preservation and revitalization of African American culture—a theme that is prominent in Lonnie Holley’s work. I reflect back to taking that picture of Lonnie and Bill next to Changing Power and how Lonnie wanted me to get the picture just right. I don’t think it was about the angle, exposure, or lighting, but about capturing a moment in time when they could put an arm around one another, smile, and reflect in the midst of their many accomplishments together.

     

    By Victoria Blunt, Halsey Institute Intern

    An Interview with Mark Sloan | Fri. Sep. 25, 2015

    As an intern with the Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art I recently had the chance to interview Mark Sloan, the director of the Halsey and chief curator of the current exhibition, Something to Take My Place: The Art of Lonnie Holley. He shared an amazing account of his history and experiences with the artist Lonnie Holley.

     

    How did you first hear about Lonnie’s work?

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    “Self Made Worlds”, by Mark Sloan and Roger Manley

    It was in the mid 1990s. I heard about him when I was putting together a book called Self Made Worlds, which is a compilation of works made by artists considered as “outsiders” and “folk artists” from around the world, and many of my friends had photographed him. Lonnie was making art out of sandstone at the time, yet had created a complex environment out of found materials. His environment was eventually destroyed by the city of Birmingham to make room for an airport expansion. They took over his house and land under the right of eminent domain.

     

     

     

    (Mark showed me a video that was made of Lonnie creating his pieces in his home minutes before it was about to be destroyed. In the video Lonnie is shown creating art while visible tears stream down his face.)

    After Lonnie was forced out of his previous home, he moved into a house that had been seized from a drug dealer in a raid. He would have people knocking on his door at all hours of the night looking for drugs. So, he moved to Atlanta – where he lives now. I finally met Lonnie in 2013, in Atlanta on one my walkabouts through the south.

     

    How did you choose the pieces for the show?

    I picked them up from the Soul’s Grown Deep warehouse in Atlanta – a place so big you can fit two 747’s inside touching nose to nose. I made several scouting trips and spent about four full days inside the warehouse. I would pull the pieces out and put them against a white wall to get a focused look at them. I was interested in the “show and tell” pieces where there’s a narrative component in addition to the visual, such as in the piece, Table of Discussion where the barbed wire indicates that there’s been a struggle.

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    Lonnie Holley, “Table of Discussion”. Photography by John Bentham

     

    I wanted to include a range of works, made in a diversity of materials, and that address a variety of subjects. All of his artwork is in some way commemorative about a person, place, or a movement. So, I selected about 100 pieces for John Bentham to photograph for the catalogue. We were able to reproduce 76 in the catalogue, and then I selected 42 from those for the show including the 3 installed in the College’s Addlestone library.

     

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    Lonnie Holley in the Souls Grown Deep warehouse. Photography by Dustin Chambers

     

    What is it like to work with Lonnie?

    It’s been a great experience. Lonnie is an inspirational person. The inspirational thing about him is knowing his life story and how he’s been discarded all of his life. He turns the most humble objects into profound expressions of the human spirit. There is a magic in that, to take something humble and transform it into something profound and evocative.

    He is kind, smart, sweet and very humble. When people learn about his story and what he’s overcome, that in itself becomes a metaphor–that he’s taken one of the most brutal upbringings and he’s turned his life into one of the most positive directions. He is very calm and just takes life as it comes.

    He had no demands, absolutely none, about which works were included in the show. The day of the opening he said he learned something about his own art from what I picked for the show. I chose to focus on assemblage pieces because of how he has reassembled the scraps of his own life. That metaphor is very powerful thing.

    For Lonnie, the circuit is not complete until the viewer understands the story behind the work. This is the reason the catalogue includes his own descriptions next to the pieces. For Lonnie, there is a performance aspect. Lonnie is a poet, philosopher, and musician. He requires that there be an understanding audience on the other end to really complete the circle.

     

    Interview by Hayley Barton, Halsey Institute Intern

    The Art of Assemblage | Fri. Sep. 18, 2015

    Assemblage as an art form has a long and at times controversial history dating back to George Braque and Pablo Picasso’s development of cubism—especially Braque’s invention of papier collé in 1912, which is a form of collage that involves pasting paper onto a flat mount. This invention transformed the way many artists thought and created, and inspired Picasso, Matisse, and Duchamp to develop the plastic arts in the early decades of the 20th century. It was a revolutionary development, because it challenged the artistic elite by placing common and industrially produced objects into the realm of fine art.

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    Pablo Picasso, Still Life with Chair Caning, 1912, oil on oil-cloth, over canvas edged with rope, 29 x 37 cm (Musée Picasso)

    Picasso and Duchamp worked almost simultaneously to expand and evolve their collages. Picasso’s earliest example being Still Life with Chair Caning from 1912, in which he combined oil on oil-cloth with canvas edged with rope. Meanwhile, Duchamp decided to leave “retinal art” behind in favor of “anti-art,” a term he coined around 1914. Retinal art, as he put it, was intended only to please the eye, but Duchamp wanted to reveal and challenge the conventional limitations of art by expanding its properties. With the development of Dada – a multi-city, multi-discipline art movement of the early 20th century – Duchamp and others openly questioned the long-held assumptions about what art should be and how it should be made. He was interested in the idea that “an ordinary object [could be] elevated to the dignity of a work of art by the mere choice of an artist.” Although readymades like Fountain – a urinal Duchamp submitted for a 1917 exhibition – would shock the art world and test the limits of public taste and artistic technique, Duchamp did not perceive these works as radical, in part because he viewed paint as an industrially made product, and hence painting as an “assisted readymade.” Duchamp’s The Large Glass (1915-23) was one of the first pieces to incorporate elements such as lead foil, fuse wire, and dust into one work, making it one of the world’s first pieces of assemblage art as we’ve come to know it.

     

    Marcel Duchamp, The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors Even (The Large Glass), 1915-23, oil, varnish, lead foil, lead wire, and dust on two glass panels, 277.5 x 175.9 cm (Philadelphia Museum of Art)

    Later artists would soon follow in Duchamp’s footsteps. Joseph Cornell, with his shadow box assemblages, is considered a pioneer in the development of the form. He created works based on a fascination with fragments of once beautiful and precious objects. Robert Rauschenberg—a Neo Dadaist—wanted to work “in the gap between art and life.” As Duchamp had before him, Rauschenberg too questioned the distinction between everyday objects and art and when working on his Combines of 1954-62, Rauschenberg stated “…the object itself was changed by its context and therefore became a new thing.” Taking these ideas a step further in the 1960s, the artist John Chamberlain began concentrating on sculpture built entirely of crushed auto parts welded together in various forms, using the car as both a medium and tool.

     

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    Today assemblage art has become widely accepted and is practiced in many forms. One example would be public art projects, such as Detroit’s Heidelberg Project. First conceived by artist Tyree Guyton in 1986, the Heidelberg Project is an example of the type of public project where participants seek to inspire and enrich communities by creating large-scale pieces of assemblage art in order to brighten the streets, establish a safe environment to foster creativity, and provide a platform to address societal issues.

     

    Lonnie Holley, Three Shovels to Bury You, 1998, shovels, thread, metal bedframe, 50 x 62 x 24 in collection of William S Arnett

     

    Lonnie Holley’s work can be positioned almost seamlessly into this timeline of assemblage arts. Like many of his predecessors, he believes similarly that “these materials once thrown away…can become new again” and that “anything can be placed poetically in your thoughts.” Holley’s inclusive and unpretentious approach to life extends to his sculptures, which come across as accessible and authentic. His work continues a long tradition in the arts of combining existing elements to create something entirely new and his assemblage pieces are a vehicle for his distinctive approach, voice and story.

     

    By Jill Dowdy, Halsey Institute Intern

    Lonnie Holley: The Musician | Thu. Sep. 10, 2015

     

    Lonnie Holley is an artist through and through. There’s never a time when his creative clock stops ticking. His mind is filled with deep thought and fundamental realizations, seeking understanding of the world and Mother Universe, as few are lucky enough to know. Yet when you see his assemblages, each piece layered in found material on their own and then altogether in the exhibition Something to Take My Place: The Art of Lonnie Holley, you catch a glimpse of the mind of the artist, the narratives that bring the art to life, and the situations that made Lonnie Holley who he is today.

    Another element of Lonnie Holley’s artistry and life, as they are inseparable, is his music. These soulful, meditative, improvised explosions of truth are really not so different from his sculpture of found material seen at the Halsey Institute this fall. Just as he is entranced by materials the average person discards, Holley picks up words, phrases, and sounds, piecing them together to create new meaning. This intense collision of old and new creates hypnotizing tunes of something familiar yet strange – like waking up from a dream you can’t quite remember.

    The musical endeavors of Lonnie Holley are not new; in fact, he’s been privately producing music using keyboards and recording devices at hand since the early 1980s. With the help of the music label Dust-to-Digital, Holley released his first professional album, Just Before Music, in 2012. Another album keenly titled Keeping a Record of It was released the following year to praise from the likes of the New York Times and Washington Post. He has toured all over North America and throughout Europe collaborating with various artists along the way. Since leaving Charleston two weeks ago, Holley performed in London for the Meltdown Festival curated by David Byrne, and then shined his light all across Europe from Switzerland to Paris to Amsterdam.

    This week, Lonnie Holley is back in Charleston with cellist Ben Sollee and multi-instrumentalist Infinitikiss to enlighten through song at the Charleston Music Hall on Saturday, September 12. The evening is sure to be something magic for all in attendance! By the end of the night we’ll all be giving one big thumbs up for Mother Universe.

     

    By Kaylee Lass, Halsey Institute Intern

     

    Call and Response | Thu. Sep. 3, 2015

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    Lonnie Holley’s art calls out. Recently I had the privilege of watching the artist describe his creative process during an orientation for our tour guides. In preparation for the exhibition Something to Take My Place: The Art of Lonnie Holley at the Halsey Institute, the artist traveled to Charleston last year to collect local objects for his constructions and he incorporated wire from Emanuel AME in the assemblage Changing Power. This piece combines that tangle of wire with plastic tubing, coat hangers and a broken lamp fixture, where each material element resonates powerfully and speaks in a firm voice: lights extinguished, figures absent, power moving through. As Holley relates about the work:

    “Blacks have had to suffer and pay for the consequences of other people’s attitudes. Some lights, because of a lack of power, will go out. We made it before such power existed and we are capable of continuing after. The broken light fixture and tubes I found in New Orleans, when I was there working on my installation for Prospect 3. The tubes reminded me of the tubes you are hooked up to in the hospital as when you are on life support. The bundle of wires came from the cleared lot next to Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, when I visited last year. We met a nice older man in the lot who explained that they were doing construction, adding elevators and such to the church. I saw the elevators as a sign that the congregation was getting older and needed assistance. I collected the wire and when I got back to Atlanta, I connected them with the light fixture and the tubes. Who could possibly have known that just a few months later, the tragic events at that same church would occur? It breaks my heart.”

     

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    During this orientation, our small group stood around the piece as Holley conversed with the musical cadence of a pastor about finding and combining materials that spoke to him. What is relayed when he speaks about his work is complex and profound. His story about Changing Power carries with it the full weight of his own perseverance in the face of enormous suffering, inevitably lifting up the humble materials employed and inspiring the audience to think and react with a sense of hope rather than despair. He concluded his narrative on this particular piece by emphasizing the transfer of power from one generation to the next for Mother Emanuel, but the larger meaning in the context of the shooting this summer was palpable. In that moment, Holley created an occasion for self-reflection and it was impossible not to wonder – how will we respond?

    By Lori Kornegay, Curator of Art & Public Engagement

    ALL MY LIFE FOR SALE BY JOHN D. FREYER | Mon. Jul. 20, 2015

    UntitledThis week’s Biblioteca blog theme is cleansing. As the Halsey staff and interns spend the week focusing on the de-installation of Alyson Shotz’s exhibition, a majority of the time is actually spent sanding, spackling, and repainting the gallery walls, sweeping the floors, and reorganizing our storage space. Essentially, between each exhibition, we press the “reset” button in order to make our space as pristine as possible. And then we mess it up again for the next show!

    This summer, we’re preparing for the Halsey’s first ever art yard sale, the Bizarre Bazaar. It’ll be a chance for the public to get a sneak peek of all the stuff we’ve been amassing (okay, hoarding) over the past thirty-one years as a result of planning, hosting, and executing hundreds of exhibitions. Perhaps, in the future, this day will be referred to as The Great Purge of 2015. Time will tell.

    While all of the details of event planning and gallery beautification have been on my mind, I spied this book, All My Life For Sale by John D. Freyer on our library shelf. After reading the blurb on the back, it seemed like a perfect literary accompaniment to what one of our goals is for the Bizarre Bazaar: clean house and have these pieces be enjoyed in new spaces.

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    Essentially, the author John Freyer returned to his home in Iowa after spending the summer in New York City and realized he had a house full of objects he doesn’t use or need. Furthermore, this stuff was holding him back; tying him to an apartment in a city where he didn’t particularly want to be. His solution? Keep the necessities, sell everything else and move to New York. Seems easy enough. To spread the word, John wanted to create a website for his yard sale, but ran into the most millennial problem ever- all the obvious website domain names were taken. Thanks a lot, yardsale.com. As a last resort he requested allmylifeforsale.com and the website was his. Apparently John Freyer is a man of his word. He decided then that he would live up to the website’s name and literally sell everything he owned.

     

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    (Freyer’s auction site)

     

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    (map of John Freyer’s items and their new homes)

     

    I love Freyer’s acceptance that this relatively simple, though extreme, idea of selling his things online would drastically alter his perspective on his buying habits. The importance we place on the things we buy has become, for many people, the way they measure value in their lives. What is more prevalent is to tie sentimental memories to our possesions, which is what Freyer chose to focus on in his book. Instead of believing that the objects and the memories they held were now lost to him, he chose to celebrate the new friends he met who purchased his old things. Freyer turned his NYC dreams into a cross-country road trip, visiting his former possessions in their homes. Check out All My Life for Sale in the Halsey’s Biblioteca for a fresh perspective, and funny anecdotes on the types of everyday objects we surrounded ourselves with.

    P.S. Freyer’s website is still live: http://www.allmylifeforsale.com/

     

    By Maggie Jordan, Halsey Program Coordinator and Bilioteca Librarian

     

    CODEX SERAPHINANUS | Mon. Jul. 13, 2015

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    I came across the strangest book I have found yet in the Halsey’s Biblioteca. I say that with some trepidation, as we have books about spontaneous human combustion, Russian prison tattoos, and something called “intestinal gardening”, but this is one of the most creative and absurd books I’ve found. It is called the Codex Seraphinanus. It was created by Luigi Serafini, an Italian industrial designer and artist. Though it appears as an ancient manuscript, this is a modern publication, created over the course of thirty months, beginning in 1981.

    The entire book is written in a made-up language with accompanying hand drawn and colored images. It is fantastic, strange, and HUGE! Flipping through the pages, I was reminded of another similar text called the Voynich Manuscript.

     

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    (pages from the Voynich Manuscript)

     

    Created in the early fifteenth century, the Voynich Manuscript is also written in some sort of made up or code language that has stumped cryptographers for centuries. Accompanied on each page are hand drawn and painted diagrams and illustrations, that seem to predominately focus on trees, root systems, and plants, though there are various images of human forms and abstract illustrations. A true mystery.

    Also dating from the fifteenth century, another source of inspiration, for the Codex Seraphinianus seems to be Hieronymus Bosch’s fantastical hybrid creatures and buildings. Bosch’s imagery is so futuristic, fun, and a little scary. What the heck was going on in Europe in the 1400’s?!

     

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    I will show you some of the excellent drawings from the Codex Seraphinius in the form of a picture blog today. To me, you are better off ignoring the scribbly text and focusing on the inspiring and surrealistic pictures Luigi Serafini cooked up, presenting his own head-scratching Codex like Bosch’s paintings and the Voynich Manuscript did before him. If you ever find yourself reading the book and need to know more, make sure to flip to the back cover of the book to discover the small yellow book in its own pocket, called the Decodex, to read what Luigi has to say about his process. Keep in mind; sometimes a mystery is the most special part of the reading experience!

     

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    Presenting: A selection from the Codex Seraphinianus with my own titles

     

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    STRANGE FRUIT

     

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    I CALL THIS ONE THE ELEPHANTIASIS HORSE

     

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    THE MIND MELD

     

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    THE YEAR 2450’S WINTER TRENDS

     

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    AVOCADO TREES

     

    The Youtube channel Stuff of Genius even made a video about the book!

     

    By Maggie Jordan, Halsey Institute Program Coordinator and Biblioteca Librarian

     

    FROM THE EYES OF AN EDUCATOR | Sat. Jul. 11, 2015

    Our Spring intern Maya McGualey has morphed her current internship into an unpaid, ad-hoc staff member role, taking on more responsibility and working with the staff to develop special projects and future programming. She is working with our grants coordinator on upcoming projects, building a marketing base for our traveling exhibitions, and leading guided group tours as a Looking to See tour guide.

     

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    As with any of our exhibitions, the Looking to See program led hundreds of viewers through Alyson Shotz’s Force of Nature. Students and teachers alike were captivated by Alyson’s complex, yet seemingly delicate sculptures. From giving tours I’ve learned that just about every age group reacts to Alyson’s work in the same way; their eyes light up with a sense of wonder and enchantment when they see the immense works. There’s always a hint of playfulness within the groups, usually meaning that they’re resisting the urge to touch the pieces.

     

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    For our tours, we wanted the viewers to grasp the effect of science and nature in her work, along with focusing on their own sense of imagination. Since the majority of Alyson’s work uses a long, methodical process, we really emphasized this on our tours. Our Children’s Museum of the Lowcountry groups were amazed when they learned that White Fold took Alyson nearly two days to finish (although one seven year old thought he could accomplish it in two hours)! For some of our hands-on activities, we provided children with a chance to create their own string drawings, so they could create their own replica of White Fold.

     

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    Whether it be five year old children or elderly adults, everyone wanted to climb into Invariant Interval. This piece was usually the starting point of our tours, mostly because it was the piece most people were drawn to. From this piece, we introduced viewers to just how much Alyson was influenced by gravity in her work.

     

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    Although Alyson’s work speaks for itself and can stand alone, some pieces seem to highlight an element of interaction. With Frames Per Second, children enjoyed seeing their split-up reflections, often remarking that it reminded them of being in the popular computer game Minecraft.

     

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    In our larger gallery, we focused on the effects of gravity and nature, her preciseness, and execution. In the smaller gallery, we wanted to let our viewers relate to Alyson on an artistic level, giving them a sense of how she created these pieces. Upon entering the smaller gallery, viewers seemed to be drawn to Black Folds, the black origami-like shapes.

     

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    Students were fooled by the illusion of shading in Topographic Iteration, and learned just how systematic her process was. The soft clay forms of Recumbent Folds, which were rolled out so perfectly and then dropped, allowed students to change their perception of what qualifies pottery as art. To most viewers, it seemed mind-blowing that someone could drop their perfect cylinders into squished forms. This also related back to just how important scientific forces are in her work.

     

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    From the tours, one of the most interactive pieces is Imaginary Sculptures. This was often the last point of the tours, where viewers were reflecting on the pieces in the show. After seeing two entire rooms of different kinds of sculpture, people seemed stumped when they saw a large grouping of phrases on the wall. Was this sculpture? Well, that was just the question our tour guides asked. Does it qualify as sculpture if you can’t touch it, but you can envision these ideas in your head? Is it Alyson’s sculpture or our sculpture? These were the ideas that led to discussions of art and sculpture in our groups.

     

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    Imaginary Sculptures was a good wrap-up for our tours. It brought together ideas of what can qualify something as art or sculpture, and focused on just how imaginative Alyson’s work truly is. Viewers of all ages were drawn to her planned out and visionary work, and really latched on to the elements that inspired her. Overall, this was a wonderful exhibition to lead tours for. It allowed viewers to learn to appreciate various forms of sculpture, while simultaneously expanding their own forms of creativity.

     

    Cheers to Alyson Shotz for creating this amazing set of work that really spoke for itself. I can’t wait for our next tour!

     

    By Maya McGauley, special projects Intern

     

     

     

     

    IMAGINARY SCULPTURES IMAGINED | Wed. Jul. 8, 2015

    Throughout this exhibition and upon seeing Shotz’s piece Imaginary Sculptures, many of our patrons ask the question “Did any of the Imaginary Sculptures influence her existing pieces or are these inspirations for future pieces?” Shotz’s piece is exactly what it sounds like; an imaginary sculpture.

    Sculpture is defined as “the art or practice of shaping figures or designs in the round or in relief, as by chiseling marble, modeling clay, or casting metal” (American Heritage College Dictionary). Shotz’s Imaginary Sculpture challenges what the viewer believes a sculpture is or can be based on the traditional definition of “sculpture.”

    Imaginary Sculptures consist of 20 variations of enameled plaques with scripts such as “a sculpture that seeps into a corner,” “a sculpture made of wind,” or “a sculpture elastic in the middle.” Because this piece requires the viewer to imagine what each sculpture looks like, I asked some viewers to draw “a sculpture melting onto a sidewalk” and “a sculpture that sags around the edges.” The participants ranged in age from 12 to 25.

    Here are some of the responses that I received. After considering how each drawer responded to Shotz’s piece, I noticed a popular theme. Many of the drawings include statues, a more traditional form of sculptures. Even though many of the drawings shared this same theme, each drawing is unique and different from the other. This difference is a component of Shotz’s work that she is aware of and utilizes. According to Shotz, “All art exists in the imagination first and maybe even last. First it exists as an idea in the mind of the artist, and last, as a memory of that object in the mind of the viewer.” Through this exercise, participants were able to share one of their memories of Shotz’s Imaginary Sculptures.

     

    By Kat Carmichael, Halsey Institute Intern

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    ART ON THE EDGE AND OVER | Mon. Jul. 6, 2015

    Untitled1Found on our contemporary art shelf in the Biblioteca, this book caught my eye while searching for this week’s highlighted book. We at the Halsey are really into the Gerlovins’ brand of art (Valeriy is on the cover) I figured if a Gerlovin is gracing a cover of an art book, I’ll probably be into it.

    As usual, my instinct was right. This book is AWESOME! Personally, I feel like it reads like a text book for a high school or college class, but this one won’t bore you and I find it very practical. I took a Contemporary Art History class back in college, and, like many people confronted with the barrage of artistic processes that contemporary artists utilize, a little confused. Overtime, I came to really appreciate these artists such as James Turrel, Marina Abramovic, and Barbara Krueger. It was hard for me to keep them all in tract, as the rise of contemporary art coincides with the rise of the individual and does not follow a neat and orderly timeline and particular movement.

    The author, Linda Weintraub, is a long time curator and art educator. She chose to focus on the 1970s up through the mid 1990s, when the book was published. She selected a few themes such as Nature, The Artist, The Communal Self, Processes, Mediums, and Aesthetics. Each theme has a few chapters that are solely dedicated to an artist who works within that theme. She does a wonderful job of breaking down how contemporary art has changed so drastically from modernism. Mainly, contemporary art is about the process over styles or art movements. The idea of pictoral space, or painting that was solely bound to a flat surface, that so dominated art history for hundreds of years, changed in the years following World War II. Around the mid 1960s, art began following the trends of the socio-political landscapes. As liberation movements were occurring across the world, contemporary artists broke from their canvas-based forbearers. Artists began highlighting certain aspects of society and showcasing them in their works. A really interesting part of Weintraub’s introduction to the book is that she states that these are artists she coins as “intractably avant-garde.” A majority of these works are not exactly aesthetically pleasing, conforming to traditional definitions of beauty, or even meant to last for a long time. She argues that a majority of these artists will not be revered in years to come or transition into an accessible type of art, like previous avant-garde movements such as the Impressionists. Basically, Weintraub argues that art doesn’t have to be pretty or “easy” to have something to say.

    This is not to say that all painting on canvas is no longer considered contemporary art. Just that the purpose, reason, and materials behind working in certain mediums changed, as well as the viewer’s relationship to the artwork itself. I think a good example of this would be the artist Chuck Close. He is still painting portraiture with oil on canvas, yet his approach is quite different. He ties his art with the rise of technology, and digital imagery by breaking down each aspect of his paintings into tiny pixels, which come together to form a coherent figure.

     

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    Chuck Close, Phil, 2011 and detail

     

    Following Weintraub through her chapters of artists, the reader finds a new aspect of contemporary society that these artists highlight in such creative ways. Orlan is a performance artist, who undergoes transformative plastic surgeries, and psychoanalysis sessions in the sake of her art. She sees her body as a vessel in which she can be constantly reborn. To many, this is completely insane, but to Orlan, she is seeking answers to questions on identity, emotions, and thought, that are often suppressed in today’s society.

     

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    Orlan in front of her various transformations, and Orlan during surgery.

    Art on the Edge and Over is a great accompaniment for anyone who is currently studying contemporary art, or for someone who is interested in learning more on the subject, or just anyone who wants to get to know some awesome current day artists who are working in all kinds of crazy mediums- from pollen, to nose-jobs, and topiary! Remember kids, anything can be art!

     

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    The Gerlovins

     

    By Maggie Jordan, Halsey Institute Program Coordinator and Biblioteca Librarian

     

    THE INTRICATE INSTALLATION OF WHITE FOLD | Thu. Jul. 2, 2015

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    White Fold is a site-specific wall installation that spans 15 feet wide by 13 feet tall delicately expanding over one of the main gallery walls in the Halsey Institute. Prepare to be mesmerized as this beautiful piece challenges the concept of space while it hovers over the gallery wall. White Fold pauses time and brings life to the concept of a feather-like movement from the wind.

     

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    ( screen shot of the Maya software’s interface )

     

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    ( plane created in Maya for the Halsey Institute’s exhibition )

    Alyson Shotz used the software program Maya to realistically construct the essence of movement within an image. After projecting the large image on the Halsey gallery wall, Alyson and her two assistants created the delicate installation with individual thin pins to create the base foundation. The assistants spent approximately 12 hours hammering the each individual pin into the wall according to the projection.

     

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    Next, they hand wove a thin white linen thread over the pins, along the lines of the projected image, displaying an intricate geometric pattern. The pattern brought life into the concept of a floating cloth. This contrast between the patterns within an organic force of nature is a beautiful strength that Alyson displays consistently throughout multiple pieces of artwork within this exhibition.

     

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    Alyson is very well known for the expansive range of materials with which she works. The thin linen thread used in White Fold creates a very soft form where the illusion of depth from the thin shadow brings the sculpture to life as it hovers over the wall.

     

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    ( White Fold at the Wellin Museum of Art )

     

    Because White Fold is a site-specific installation piece, the final outcome is always different. The Forces of Nature exhibition at the Wellin Museum housed White Fold on a gallery wall nearly four times the size. Alyson’s assistants Margret and Hon played a major part in both the installation at the Wellin Museum as well as the installation at the Halsey. They noted that the installation for White Fold at the Halsey Institute was smoother and faster due to the size, and their familiarity with this specific instillation process.

     

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    When approaching White Fold, start off up close and view the intricate detail in the weaving patterns Alyson created. Then slowly move backwards and watch the sculpture come to life as gravity suspends this incredible sculpture in the air.

     

    By Barbara Montgomery, Halsey Institute Intern

     

    DIANE ARBUS BY PATRICIA BOSWORTH | Mon. Jun. 29, 2015

    Untitled1I picked up this book a few months ago while I was cataloging new books for the Biblioteca. Since I was a kid, I’ve always been fascinated with Diane Arbus and her haunting black and white photography. While I was a teenager, I saw the movie Fur, which stars Nicole Kidman and Robert Downey Jr., which is a surrealist take on her life and career. Diane is always an artist I seem to come back to, usually just by searching her images online. To me, her work is at once sad, funny, beautiful, and fearful. She seemed to see deeply into all of her subjects at a time when the counter culture or any alternative lifestyles were frowned upon.

     

     

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    (Identical Twins, 1967)

    Though I’ve always enjoyed her images, I didn’t really know much about her life, and researching online left a lot to be desired. This biography by Patricia Bosworth is a really great read and was addicting! I read it in just a few days. Usually biographies can get a little stale, but Diane’s life, though short (forty four year-old spoiler alert: she committed suicide at age 48), was fascinating. She was born into a very wealthy New York Jewish family who manufactured furs and owned one of the few big department stores in the city. After an isolated, though privileged childhood, she fell in love at a very young age and started an editorial fashion photography business with her new husband, Alan Arbus. However, after a few years, Diane couldn’t stand the formulaic approach of the shoots they were doing. She took a step back from the business and began focusing on her own work.

     

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    (Child with Toy Hand Grenade in Central Park, 1962)

    It took her a long time to get “in” the art world, mainly due to the fact that photography was still mainly seen as a component of the media outlets, as photojournalists. She only had a few major exhibitions before she died, and like many artists, only attained major recognition after her death. However, she was always surrounded by and counted as close friends, famous artists and editors such as Lisette Model, Richard Avedon, Marvin Israel, and Alexi Brodovitch, just to name a few. What I found really interesting about her style and life is that she was constantly trying to learn from these respected and established artists, but held onto her distinct and caustic portrait style. She questioned herself constantly, unless she was behind her camera.

     

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    (A young man in curlers at home on West 20th Street, N.Y.C, 1966)

    Once while giving a lecture she said, “The camera is an instrument of detection…we photograph what we know and what we don’t know…when I point by camera at something I am asking a question and the photograph is sometimes an answer…In other words I am not trying to prove anything. I am the one getting the lesson.” When she was behind her camera, it was the only place she felt in control and able to approach the world in a direct way. Patricia Bosworth spoke to many of Diane’s friends, who all said that she usually dressed and acted like a lost little girl who was so beautiful and innocent even in a strange way. However, she could be quite abrasive once she approached her subjects, almost attacking them with constant barrage of photographs.

     

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    (Jewish Giant at Home in the Bronx with his Parents, 1970)

    She was always attracted to the seedy underbelly of New York City. She didn’t travel much, preferring to walk around late at night until she found a subject worth approaching. While wrestling with her style in the early 1950s, she repeatedly visited the Hubert’s Dime Museum and Flea Circus, at first, just hanging around watching the action, but slowly became familiar with the many performers. She photographed them all, from giant cowboys, snake handlers to a man with no hands and the sword swallowers. Slowly, she was developing what would become her signature look. Stark black and white portraits of her subjects shot on a Leica 35mm camera.

     

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    I really cannot recommend this biography enough. Though very sad and frustrating at times, it is a wonderfully compassionate look at the life, and eternally haunting artwork of Diane Arbus.

     

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    By Maggie Jordan, Halsey Institute Program Coordinator and Biblioteca Librarian

    AN INTERVIEW WITH “FORCE OF NATURE” CURATOR TRACY L. ADLER | Wed. Jun. 24, 2015

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    ( installation of Force of Nature at Wellin Museum of Art )

    Now that you have had a virtual “walk through” (here and here) of the entirety of Alyson Shotz’s Force of Nature at the Halsey Institute, we will discuss how the exhibition came to be and learn more about the curation process of the exhibit. To get an in depth perspective of the show we asked Tracy Adler, curator, to further explain the genesis of Force of Nature and what it was like to curate this retrospective of Alyson’s work. Adler is the Director of the Ruth and Elmer Wellin Museum of Art at Hamilton College in New York, where Force of Nature was previously exhibited.

     

    Screen Shot 2015-06-26 at 12.00.22 PM( L: installation of Force of Nature at Wellin Museum of Art, R: Adler and Shotz at the Wellin’s exhibition walk-through )

     

    How did you learn of Alyson’s work? Had you seen it previously displayed?

    I first met Alyson Shotz in 1998, and over the next decade I included her work in two group shows I organized in New York City.

     

    Was there anything particular about her work that drew you to curate this show?

    A desire to establish a better understanding of an artist’s work may seem like an unusual reason to curate such a large-scale project. But I felt strongly that Shotz’s work had not been brought into the thorough critical dialogue it deserved. Although her major sculptural installations have been featured at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Phillips Collection in Washington, D.C., the Nasher Sculpture Center in

    Dallas, and other nationally prominent institutions, Shotz’s body of work, collectively, had never received a comprehensive investigation.

     

    How did you choose the pieces to be in the show?

    I selected the group of works from her considerable output from the last 5 years. I really wanted the exhibition to suit the space so that was a major concern in the selection process.

     

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    How did you choose placement for the show?

    The work and the site were equally important. I am a big believer in the power of interesting work in unique spaces and try to curate shows that reflect that symbiosis.

     

    Can you describe the process and relationship between curator and artist as the show developed?

    It’s always different. Some artists are more involved than others. Some work more collaboratively than others. I wish there was a formula but every artist brings his/her own insights and personality into the mix.

     

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    ( installation of Force of Nature at Wellin Museum of Art )

     

    What is it like to work with Alyson?

    It was a very collaborative process. This exhibition was the result of a true partnership: Shotz was involved in all aspects of its development. This level of collaboration is quite rare, and as the planning and implementation process continued, our mutual respect and understanding grew.

     

    You said in an informational video that this is the first time Alyson’s work has all been shown together like this, how do you think that changes how people see the works? What conversation do these works all together create for you?

    I truly hope so. I think it’s important to see works in context so the viewer can begin to tease out recurrent themes, forms and concepts in the work. Since Alyson has created many site-specific works in her career that have stood as single installations, often the context is not offered. There is a “wow” factor with her work in every case, but I wanted that to turn into a more contemplative “hmm” or “ah.”

     

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    ( installation of Force of Nature at Wellin Museum of Art )

     

    Be sure to make it to the Halsey Institute to see Force of Nature (open until Saturday, July 11) for yourself to better understand this context Adler discusses and have a “hmm” or “ah” moment of your own!

     

    By Meagan Carter, Halsey Institute Intern

     

    FARFETCHED | Mon. Jun. 22, 2015

    Untitled1This edition of the Biblioteca Blog will feature a relatively new addition to our shelves entitled Farfetched: Mad Science, Fringe Architecture and Visionary Engineering. It is a small book that can be overlooked, but is not to be missed as it holds an amazing selection of stories and images from some interesting characters.

    Written by Roger Manley, the director of the Gregg Museum at North Carolina State, and Tom Patterson, writer and curator who specializes in Outsider Art, this book (as well as Manley’s other publications) delves into the work and lives of individuals who have started creating their own imaginary worlds, methods, and mechanics.

    To learn more about Outsider Art, I highly suggest checking out Raw Vision, a magazine that focuses on Outsider or Vernacular Art. Sometimes it can be a tricky subject to discuss. Many people understand Outsider Art as “Folk Art” which to some, carries a connotation of the artists lack understanding of how to create art. I checked out Raw Vision’s definition of the history of Outsider Art, which you can view here. Essentially Outsider Art grew out of the study of the artistic work of the mentally disturbed patients in psychiatric hospitals in the mid- to late-nineteenth century. If one had no formal artistic training, how were they creating “spontaneous artworks of unusual quality and power?” Many of these paintings were published and studied by doctors, and caught the attention of the Avant-Garde art world. Most famously, artist Jean DuBuffet found these images fascinating. He believed that artists with little training, typically children, or the mentally ill, were unsullied by the formal artistic tradition created more powerful, pure, and true artwork. His term for these types of work was Art Brut.

     

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    ( William Bartholomew, Cake Month, 1861 )

     

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    ( unknown artist )

    Similarly, in the book Farfetched, Manley and Patterson are taking examples of outsiders who created fantastical drawings, sculptures, assemblages, and paintings of imagined cities, worlds, new technologies and machines. In the introduction to the book, Manley states that the idea of a “mad scientist” is one that connotes a wild-eyed, white haired, crazed individual with a maniacal laugh prone to creepy experimentations. However, men like Isaac Newton or Galileo were also considered crazy in their day for pursuing their ideas. Ridicule has always followed those who thought outside of the box and created new ways of understanding the world around us. In Farfetched, the authors do a wonderful job showcasing a few images of these far-thinking individuals and a brief biography of how their artwork played into their life.

    Interestingly, all these “mad scientists” are men, and they have a variety of educational backgrounds. Nearly all of them were considered reclusive, strange, and on the fringe of society. A lot of their stories would be quite sad if it wasn’t for the exquisite and imaginative works they created. A few of my favorites are Saint EOM, who was born Eddie Owens Martin, and claimed he had vision telling him he was to change his life and become “Saint EOM the Pasaquoyan”. He created an entire environment dedicated to this new identity. His Pasaquan is open to the public near Buena Vista, Georgia and is preserved by a non-profit organization.

     

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    ( Saint EOM’s Pasaquan )

    Saint EOM’s artwork was pretty futuristic. He designed a spacesuit that was self air-conditioned and could levitate. I notice that a majority of these artists were focused on visions of the future. Another favorite in this vein is Paul Laffoley. Highly technical, his paintings and drawings had plans to design a “Klein-Bottle-shaped structure to be grown by genetically modifying tree DNA, may offer a way to construct bases on other planets.” Even stranger, Laffoley, while undergoing a routine CAT-scan, discovered a small metallic implant in the occipital lobe of his brain. He believes this was implanted by extraterrestrials and is the main cause of his ideas and inspirations.

     

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    ( Paul Laffoley, The Eloptic Nohmagraphon, 1989, Oil, Acrylic, Ink, Lettering on Canvas, 37 ½ x 73 ½ in.)

    Farfetched is full of these amazing individuals, who would probably be forgotten from history, even if some of their premonition-like artwork has now become reality. Come out and read in the Biblioteca. I’ll leave it on the table so you won’t miss it!

     

    By Maggie Jordan, Program Coordinator and Biblioteca Librarian

    SPOOKY SUMMER READING | Mon. Jun. 15, 2015

    Untitled1I am feeling spooky this week, and fittingly, the Halsey Institute’s library, Biblioteca, has two entire bookshelves dedicated to the supernatural, Voodoo, and spirit worlds. I am going full on witchy with a 1961 book titled A Pictorial History of Magic and the Supernatural by French author and filmmaker Maurice Bessy. This book has detailed almost every aspect of the occult and supernatural throughout history.

    Need to impress your new witch coven, or Satanic book club? Look no further than the Halsey’s library.

    Man, that cover is straight out of American Horror Story’s opening credits. Anyway, like the title suggests, this book is full of images of material objects associated with magic. Each page has a different theme, like “To Inspire Fear” or “Celestial Medicine” and “Sinister Acts Done in Bright Sunlight”, with about five or six different examples from various time periods and cultures. Basically, people have been weird since the beginning of human history! The little blurbs underneath each picture define the image, or give an example of its historically supernatural meaning. My favorite one is on the page describing “Witches Sabbaths and Saturnalia,” stating that, “Fortunately, when they returned from the Sabbath, witches were capable of changing their shape in order to foil the curiosity of indiscreet onlookers and also that of the police.” Maurice Bessy is quite matter of fact with his descriptions and offers little to no personal opinions in his writing.

    With over three hundred pages, this book really covers it all. Spanning from cave drawings, to tarot card readings from the Middle Ages, and initiation rites from world cultures, this book is essentially a pictorial dictionary for all things spooky. What adds to the macabre nature of this book is the ancient drawings and engravings that are found on most pages.

     

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    Personally, this book made me understand how advanced science and technology, as well as our society, has become. The first edition of this book came out in 1961, right around the shift towards postmodernism was occurring. It does have 20th century example of tribal initiations and occult rituals, which function as a way to provide societal cohesiveness in the culture rather than a belief in the supernatural. Overall this book relies heavily on medieval cartoons, engravings, and drawings. These drawings helped develop, among other things, an inward look into ailments and problems that eventually became the basis of a scientific method.

    However, in keeping with the theme of the book, A Pictorial History of Magic and the Supernatural is available in the Halsey’s Biblioteca whenever you may need a dose of unreality.

     

    By Maggie Jordan, Program Coordinator and Biblioteca librarian

    ALYSON SHOTZ’S OTHER BODIES OF WORK | Thu. Jun. 11, 2015

    Force of Nature the Halsey Institute’s current exhibition by artist Alyson Shotz is an eclectic group of works each made from a different medium or process. Shotz considers herself a sculptor but has sampled many different kinds of art throughout her career. The collections range widely in mediums, color schemes, and scale. This is evident not only in Force of Nature, but throughout her entire collection of works.

    Shotz has always been interested in science and recently has been inspired by reading science fiction where she often plays with ideas of how objects exist in space. The sculptures occupy and move space in different ways depending on how they are perceived. Many of her pieces are reflective and the perceptions of them change with the amount of light throughout the day. The sculptures reflect images of the surrounding location and even the other artworks within the space. Below are images of some of her works not exhibited at the Halsey that are installed all around the country and world where these common elements can be seen.

    Pieces like Geometry of Light, and The Shape of Space, she will construct on site either on her own or with the help of her assistants.

     

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    (Geometry of Light, 2011; cut plastic Fresnel lens sheet, silvered glass beads, stainless steel wire. Featured in a solo exhibition at the Espace Louis Vuitton, Tokyo)

     

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    (Details, Geometry of Light)

     

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    (The Shape of Space, 2004; cut plastic Fresnel lens sheets and staples. Installation at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, NY for the Exhibition “The Shapes of Space”)

     

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    (Details, The Shape of Space)

     

    Mirror Fence, contains that reflective quality that many of her other sculptures have. This quality allows the works to reflect the objects moving in front of them, like people passing by, and appears brighter and darker along with time of day. At other times, the sculpture becomes part of the space around it and blends in.

     

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    (Mirror Fence, 2003-2014; Starphire mirror and aluminum)

     

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    (Detail, Mirror Fence)

     

    Other sculptures by Shotz like Quaternion and Standing Wave can appear to be different colors at different instances. They appear pink and green from one view and yellow and red from another because of the material used and how that material reacts with the light and the space around it.

     

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    (Quaternion, 2014; welded aluminum frame, acrylic with dichroic lamination, stainless steel hardware. Permanent installation at the Fourth Presbyterian Church, Chicago, IL)

     

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    (Details, Quaternion)

     

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    (Standing Wave, 2012; acrylic with dichroic lamination, Velcro tape. Permanent Installation at the Hotel Alexander, Indianapolis, IN)

     

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    (Detail, Standing Wave)

     

    Shotz challenges space and the way that space and objects are perceived. In both Force of Nature and her various other works this common theme can be found and enjoyed.

     

     

    By Hayley Barton, Halsey Institute Intern

    THE GRAND ECCENTRICS | Mon. Jun. 8, 2015

    For the second edition of the Biblioteca Blog, I am highlighting a book that focuses on artists and art that eschews the mainstream.

    grand 1In The Grand Eccentrics, published in 1966, editor Thomas B. Hess outlines the 5 “types” of eccentric art. These include strange work created by the world’s most famous artists, folk art, artists who worked in “esoteric” themes, art made by the legally insane, as well as well-known artists who have an eccentric tendency, though their artwork does not reflect these tendencies. Pretty broad range, I’d say. Hess then specifies these categories, claiming that what defines an eccentric artist is his “distance from the center.” Thus, the eccentric artist, for various and unique reasons, is one that strives, or is unable to be neatly classified into mainstream movements or a certain type of art.

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    The book starts out describing eccentric artists in a somewhat generalized way by providing some all encompassing descriptions of them: “The eccentric artist can entertain the wildest ambitions and be willing to adopt any means to accomplish his ends, because he is free of traditional imperatives…” but becomes more focused on examples of eccentric artists throughout history. Thomas B. Hess states that eccentricities are not likely to be found in the midst of a traditional setting. For example, an artist commissioned in the Middle Ages by the church is not the one most likely to create an overtly weird picture, or an apprentice in an 18th century atelier, following the rules and demands of his master didn’t normally delve off into his own version of fantasies. While this is a bit strained in the truth, I understand the author’s perspective. He argues instead that much of “eccentric” art occurs in between major time periods, such as Hieronymus Bosch’s late Middle Ages proto-Surrealist works, or the later Romantic and Symbolist artists who were residing in France in the latter part of the 19th century.

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    I believe the strength in this book is the focus on interesting characters throughout art history. There is an essay on Messerschmidt, an 18th century sculptor who created realistic busts of himself in various sorts of pain. When I came across these, I believed they were character studies, a way for the artist to understand human physiology. He created over sixty, claiming that though he lived a peaceful and chaste life, he was constantly visited by ghosts who would pinch him and cause him stomach pain. To control these demons, and his pain, he created the sculptures. The author of the essay states that while Messerschmidt was on the fringe of society, and possibly insane, for his time, his belief in exorcisms and ghosts was not unheard of. The strangeness of these pieces is the fact that they were so tied to his personal delusions.

    Overall, this book is wonderful to learn about some of art history’s stranger characters, including some forgotten to the masses. Ranging from architects, engravers, sculptors, writers, and painters, this is a great read when you want to get weird.

    By Maggie Jordan, Program Coordinator & Biblioteca Librarian

    A WALK THROUGH THE GALLERIES, PART II | Thu. Jun. 4, 2015

    Last week we “walked” through the main gallery space and discussed Alyson Shotz’s larger works in the Force of Nature exhibition. This week, we will move to the smaller of the Halsey Institute’s galleries and examine Shotz’s other pieces.

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    BLACK FOLDS (1-9)

    These pieces made of painted aluminum sheets. They are inspired by an intimate series of paper works created in collaboration with the paper studio workshop Dieu Donné in New York City in 2014. They have an appearance similar to folded paper, although they are created out of the less forgiving medium of aluminum. Referencing Shotz’s interest in origami and folding, the works appear effortless but in actuality are carefully composed. The variety of shapes reveals the range of possible results from the simple acts of folding, creasing, and crumpling.

     

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    © Flint Hahn

     

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    SEQUENT I and II

    Shotz often works serially, as evidenced both in her sculptures and in these two groups of aquatint prints with collagraph embossing made with Crown Point Press. Folded forms that have the appearance of flattened origami shapes seem to be embedded in the surface of the print, the embossing effect created through a collagraphic process. Colors of varying hue and value describe the order in which each fold was made in the composition.

     

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    ( left: collagraphic embossing by Amy Twigger Holroyd, right: b.z. reily )

     

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    RECUMBENT FOLDS, #33-#36

    The inspiration for this body of unglazed porcelain works came from Shotz’s frequent visits to Japan in 2009, when she was commissioned to create a site-specific work for Louis Vuitton in Kobe. Recumbent Folds exhibits Shotz’s ongoing interest in the integration of elements of chance. To produce the works, the artist created cylindrical forms and then dropped them from various heights. Shotz notes of the process, “gravity plus the specific material properties of the porcelain, the thickness of the slab, how wet or dry it is, the humidity in the air, the force with which I drop it—all collaborate to create the shape.”

     

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    ( Shotz’s A Curve in Space and Time installed at the Kobe, Japan Louis Vuitton store. )

     

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    TOPOGRAPHIC ITERATION

    Much like White Fold, this series of prints plays with the relationship between illusionism and two- and three-dimensional space. Shotz created the works by crumpling a large sheet of white Japanese Masa paper, then flattening and photographing it. She then printed that image on a new piece of paper of exactly the same size and type, and, again, crumpled the new print. The final pieces are both photographs and sculptures, and it is difficult—at times even impossible—to discern the difference between the printed creases and the physical ones. Evocative of the surface of the Moon and topographical maps, these works possess both a graphic and terrain-like quality.

     

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    ( topographic map example )

     

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    ( An image of the Moon’s surface, translated from a sphere into a flattened rectangle. )

     

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    IMAGINARY SCULPTURES

    Imaginary Sculptures, a series of enamel on steel plaques with bits of script, asks us to consider a sculpture that is, for example, “made of wind,” “elastic in the middle,” or “of a half open garage door,” thus evoking a range of possible forms. Some of the works are impossible to realize, and others conjure up such fantastical imagery that any physical manifestation would disappoint. Presented as simple signs, the suggestions are intended to spark the audience’s imagination. According to Shotz, the main concept behind this project is that “All art exists in the imagination first and maybe even last. First it exists as an idea in the mind of the artist, and last, as a memory of that object in the mind of the viewer.”

     

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    PROGRESSION 2

    Expanding the exhibition beyond the Halsey Institute galleries and into the Cato Center’s Hill Gallery, Shotz has created a band of vinyl decals that produce the effect of etched glass. The delicate etchings are comprised of forms resembling ovals in rotation. This installation will be on long-term view. The shadows on the floor created by the design are best seen in the afternoon light!

     

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    ( original plan for the window vinyl decals )

     

    By Lizz Biswell, curator of education and public programs

    IS KITSCH REALLY ALL THAT BAD? | Mon. Jun. 1, 2015

    As a new installment to the Halsey Institute’s blog, and for your reading pleasure, I will be highlighting different books found in the Halsey’s Biblioteca stacks weekly. Like many libraries, our Biblioteca has history books, dictionaries, and reference texts…except our dictionary selections include “The Illustrated Dictionary of Hairdressing and Wigmaking.” You never know what you may uncover, and I welcome you to come explore and enjoy!

    For this inaugural blog post, I will highlight a work of philosophical essays and material culture, entitled “Kitsch: The World of Bad Taste” by Gillo Dorfles.

    Untitled How could you not pick up this book, just check out the cover?! Why is this nude woman playing a violin with a wispy, ethereal scarf by the sea? We must know more!

    Written in 1968, this collaborative collection of essays disseminates a wide array of visual kitsch; from tacky architecture, bric-á-brac, to trashy movies. Essentially, this is a book of aesthetics. How can we qualify “bad” art versus “good” art? Taste and class versus low-brow culture? The author, Gillio Dorfles, acknowledges that standards of taste changes over periods of time, so what is once kitsch may not always be considered so, but as he says in the introduction, “If anyone is not satisfied with our choice and finds some of the images artistic which we will present as pseudo-artistic, un-artistic, too bad!” I appreciate an author who can stand behind his own informed opinions of other’s questionable skills.

     

     

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    It turns out, the word kitsch, could have derived from a few different sources. It may come from the English word “sketch”, or more likely, from Germanic origin from the word verkitschen, which means “to make cheap”. Dorfles points out, that this concept of kitsch is relatively modern, as the purpose of art has changed over time. In previous centuries, artwork was not as accessible as it is today. Typically, the church or wealthy patrons commissioned artists, and their work was subsequently used for religious or political purposes. It was not until the 18th and 19th centuries that contemporary artists could exhibit freely alongside a middle class that established commercial galleries. Kitsch has flowered out of our modern world, argues Dorfles, and cites two essays from Hermann Broch and Clement Greenberg, written between the 1930s and 1950s. Broch expels on the idea of the kitschmensch, or “man of bad taste” is a product of a culture who misunderstands modern art. This is not to be confused with the everyday, average man, who may or may not care or form opinions on art or “high culture”, but rather, a class of people who actively produce, consume, and revel in their collections of false-art. Greenberg, in his more sociologically and politically driven essay “Avant Garde and Kitsch” states that the avant garde must always resist the dumbing down of art that occurs from a consumerist driven society. Greenberg writes:

    Kitsch, using for raw material the debased and academicized simulacra of genuine culture, welcomes and cultivates this insensibility. It is the source of its profits. Kitsch is mechanical and operates by formulas. Kitsch is vicarious experience and faked sensations. Kitsch changes according to style, but remains always the same. Kitsch is the epitome of all that is spurious in the life of our times. Kitsch pretends to demand nothing of its customers except their money – not even their time.

     

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    While the essays from the mid century critics cited, in their eyes, a growing problem with the industrialization of society and the rise of kitsch along with it, this book piques your mind into exploring the netherworlds of kitschy objects. Previously, I thought of kitsch as Precious Moments porcelain dolls, or garden gnomes in your neighbor’s front yard. However, the author and essays in this book make the argument that over-exposure, over-manufacturing of any object of artistic reproductions, from the your favorite shower curtain with Van Gogh’s Sunflowers or Starry Night printed on, to plastic trees in doctor’s offices that instead of elegantly elevating the space, just make it seem tacky. “Kitsch: The World of Bad Taste” is available to any who would like to reflect on the rampant tastelessness and exploitative nature of today’s modern society. Sigh.

     

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    By Maggie Jordan, Program Coordinator & Halsey Librarian

    A WALK THROUGH THE GALLERIES, PART I | Thu. May. 28, 2015

    When visiting the Alyson Shotz: Force of Nature exhibition, after visitors overcome their awe at Shotz’s work, they may begin to look around the walls for traditionally placed text panels of a curatorial statement or artist’s biography. As their eyes scan the gallery walls, they are rewarded with more artwork, not words. Shotz says space is a contact medium in her work; this includes the space surrounding and inside of each piece. To maintain a clean space, with no superfluous visual clutter, the exhibition does not have text panels accompanying the works. In two blog posts, we’ll share the information from Alyson Shotz’s exhibition guide.

    In this blog post, we’ll “walk” through the exhibition, beginning with the front wall of the gallery with Emergent Structure, moving to the large centrally-located Invariant Interval, then the site-specific White Fold. Next are the pieces by the gallery’s street-facing window for Frames Per Second and Fundamental Forces. We’ll end with the video animation, The Bedroom, A Timelapse.

     

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    EMERGENT STRUCTURE

    Emergent Structure is a latex print on vinyl. At over 13 feet high, this large-scale digital print contains imagery drawn from Shotz’s ceramic Recumbent Folds, her animation Fluid State (2011-12), and her beaded and magnetic sculptures, as well as an ancient bonsai tree’s roots. Shotz refers to these digital compilations as “sketchbooks” in which there are “no laws of physics involved.” Designed for this exhibition, Emergent Structure is a compendium of the artist’s output, observations, and inspirations, brought together in a single work of art.

    The viewer immediately feels this is a beautifully symmetrical piece, marveling at the beauty of its balance. Upon very close inspection, we see one place at the top and bottom when an image of one of Shotz’s Recumbent Folds pieces straddles the left and right hemispheres, making the piece asymmetrical.

     

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    INVARIANT INTERVAL 4

    Invariant Interval #4 is made of stainless-steel wire, aluminum collars, and silvered glass beads, and is suspended from the ceiling with monofilament. Notable for its room-filling expansiveness, Invariant Interval is an exploration into representing volume without mass, form that responds to and illustrates the mechanics of gravity, and the complex relationship between negative and positive space—themes that are recurrent in Shotz’s work. Its stainless-steel wires determine the overall shape and contours of the piece, and tiny silvered glass beads pick up and refract the surrounding light, resulting in a luminous, galactic effect. The linear quality of the wire makes for a kind of drawing in space, and the boundaries between form and edges dissolve and materialize depending on the viewer’s location in relation to the work and the changing natural light throughout the day.

     

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    At the Wellin Museum of Art’s exhibition of Force of Nature, Shotz installed this piece vertically.

     

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    WHITE FOLD, SECTION 2

    White Fold is made of wet-spun linen thread and nails hammered into a precise pattern on the wall. From afar, White Fold gives the impression of a wall drawing, but close inspection reveals that it is composed of carefully sited nails looped with white linen thread, creating both a real and illusionistic dimension. Shotz designed the composition for this site-specific wall work using the animation program Maya. She began with a flat surface and then applied properties like mass, resistance, and friction. She then let the animation play out. As the action progressed, the plane fell through space, producing a distortion and twisting of the original surface. The composition was then projected onto the wall and the intersections of lines were denoted by nails and connected with thread. Created specifically for the Halsey Institute, White Fold captures a moment in the evolution of a shape’s transformation.

     

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    Here is an image of the final image Shotz created in Maya. This image was used as the guide for White Fold’s installation.

     

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    FRAMES PER SECOND

    Frames Per Second is made of hundreds of ½ centimeter strips of clear, mirrored acrylic. The thin strips of mirror fragment what they reflect, creating a visual dispersion evocative of digital imagery. Although created without complex technological means, the effect is dizzying. The title Frames Per Second references the twenty-four still images or “frames”, needed to create one second of film. The work itself has an almost cinematic quality as reflections splinter across its surface. Shotz also references Eadweard Muybridge’s early experiments in capturing movement by shooting successive images through his stop-motion photography.

     

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    Here is Muybridge’s Sallie Gardner at a Gallop or as it’s more commonly known, The Horse in Motion.

     

    Muybridge’s most famous work began in 1872, when he was hired by Leland Stanford (later the founder of Stanford University) to photograph horses. Stanford reputedly had made a bet that for a moment, all four of a racehorse’s hooves are off the ground simultaneously, and he hired Muybridge to take the pictures to prove him right. This was difficult to do with the cameras of the time, and the initial experiments produced only indistinct images. Eventually he was able to perfect the experiments. He set up a row of cameras with tripwires, each of which would trigger a picture for a split second as the horse ran by. The results settled the debate once and for all: all four hooves do leave the ground at once, as the top middle image in this sequence demonstrates. Muybridge spent the rest of his career improving his technique, making a huge variety of motion studies, lecturing, and publishing. As a result of his motion studies, he is regarded as one of the fathers of the motion picture.

     

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    FUNDAMENTAL FORCES

    These six silver gelatin photographs were created by projecting light through shards of glass that were the byproduct of experiments conducted during Shotz’s residency at the Pilchuck Glass School in 2010. What appear as undulating waves are actually shadows of the structure left after the molten glass was stretched and stressed to its limit.

     

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    THE BEDROOM, TIME LAPSE

    The Bedroom, Time Lapse is a 27 minute, 49 second animation video. Time and how it is experienced is of particular interest to Shotz, whose well-known video artwork Fluid State traces a dawn-to-dusk cycle of an undulating ocean of reflective spheres. The setting for Shotz’s animation The Bedroom, Time Lapse is immediately recognizable as an updated version of the interior depicted in Vincent van Gogh’s painting Bedroom at Arles (1889). Depicting a modernized version of Van Gogh’s bedroom, the animation’s three, eight-minute segments examine the passage of time through the play of sunlight and starlight in the room. As the animation progresses, the time of day and seasons shift. At one point, the room is flooded, mirroring the flooding of Shotz’s own studio in Red Hook, Brooklyn, during Hurricane Sandy in 2012. The artist also notes Stanley Kubrick’s celebrated film 2001: A Space Odyssey as an influence in the creation of this work. In that film, which is set in an alien version of an Earth-like bedroom, the surviving astronaut lives out his days in a peculiar isolated room that appears to exist in a dream state, outside of earthly space and time.

    The bedroom serves as a constant or a control upon which different kinds of light, time, and weather act. Shotz collaborated with animator Todd Akita, and drummer and musician Nasheet Waits, who produced the soundtrack. “I’m fascinated by the suspension of time and isolation one feels in both bedrooms that Van Gogh and Kubrick have portrayed. The animation will highlight the strange, yet seemingly commonplace experience of living on a planet in space, rotating around a sun, through a series of day and night cycles,” said Shotz.

     

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    To refresh your memory, below are images of Van Gogh’s Bedroom at Arles and the ending scene of 2001: A Space Oddessy.

    Check back next week for our exploration of the other 7 works in the Alyson Shotz: Force of Nature exhibition!

     

    By Lizz Biswell, Curator of Education

     

    A VISIT TO PAT POTTER’S HOME | Thu. Feb. 26, 2015

    On a piece of land hidden in the hills of Anniston, Alabama live Pat and Guice Potter. If you travel to find her, you will not find the traditional southern home, rather a breathtaking tree house lofted high off the ground. In 1975 Patricia Potter teamed up with fellow architect Julian Jenkins to design her family’s home on an untouched 5-acre plot just above Booger Hollow. The surrounding area provides the subject matter for much of her work.

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    Pat eloquently describes the structure itself is an “unfolding house, with porches on all sides, with a bridge and a tunnel slide connecting pathways running through five acres of forest.” It is tucked neatly into a mesh of trunks and branches; giving it the feeling of being up and away from the rest of the world. Living up in a tree plays a major role in Pat’s work; she believes that her home has become part of her work as her career as progressed.

    Over the years, the house has changed to fit the needs of Pat and her husband. Each level takes on the role of what Pat considers the three stages of life: becoming, being, and disappearing.

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    The top level is what Pat refers to as the area of becoming. When she began working in her tree house in the 1970s this level of the home was dedicated to her studio practices. Pat would go to work at the Anniston Museum of Natural History from 8:00am to 4:00pm, then would return home to work from a live model in the evening. This space has since become a space for displaying her drawings and sketches from her “stage of becoming”.

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    The middle floor is the level of being. This level of the home is strictly dedicated to living and entertaining. In the windowsills are collections of shells and other small found objects that Pat has collected over the years. Much like her Isomorphic Map Tables, the level of being is made up of mismatched found windows and doors Pat reclaimed from various structures over time. The stones on the fireplace are old river rocks, also items that Pat has collected.

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    The lowest level is the level of disappearing. When the home was originally built it was the part of the home dedicated to her children. As they grew up and moved out, Pat’s need for studio space began to take over the empty level, converting it into a workshop for Pat’s unique creations. On a good day, Pat has several interns working along side her in this studio space.

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    Her interns are given the chance to work directly with Pat on major projects, like her pieces for Patterns of Place. “I feel very comfortable turning over finishing work to them,” says Pat, who allows her interns to be involved in every step of the process. One of her first interns, Claire Boscher, is the master behind the lens for many of the Map Table photographs in the exhibition’s catalogue. Like most good artists, Pat is adamant about giving credit where credit is due; she is very open about the collaboration that is required to make her ideas come to life. She tells me during an interview, “I have definitely not done this alone.” Everything in her pieces has been collected from walks or travels over the years with the exception of the steel frames and glass.

    Pat Potter’s home, life, and artwork are warmly and authentically intertwined.

    By Katie Mangurian, Halsey Institute Intern
    Photos courtesy of Mark Sloan

    A GOLDEN PAIRING | Thu. Feb. 19, 2015

    Sitting in Patricia Boinest Potter’s Alabama treehouse, carefully packaged in a plastic bag, is a copy of Douglas Hofstadter’s that is so fragile and well-loved one could assume every page had been closely examined, highlighted, and re-evaluated on a regular basis.

    Screen Shot 2015-03-01 at 12.21.23 AM( Left: Potter’s well-loved copy of Gödel, Escher, Bach: The Golden Braid in its protective plastic freezer bag. Right, the 1999 rerelease of the book )

    Potter cites Gödel, Escher, Bach as “the most extraordinary book I had ever read,” when she first encountered it. Hofstadter’s theories and observations, which he discussed with Potter when visiting the Halsey in January, have influenced crucial aspects of Potter’s current body of work shown in Patterns of Place. The concept Hofstadter explores, which has most influenced Potter, is the study and relation of different categories through isomorphic maps. In Gödel, Escher, Bach Hofstadter explains his own definition of isomorphism as “when two complex structures can be mapped onto each other, in such a way that to each part of one structure there is a corresponding part in the other structure.” Exploring in intricate detail the relationship between sound, movement, structure and the spaces it leaves between, the six Isomorphic Map Tables in Patterns of Place are Potter’s own translation of the term isomorphic. The entire theory of Hofstadter’s isomorphism, which Potter was first introduced to in the early 1980’s in a small group that met weekly to discuss the book, is one that encourages connections in all areas of life. Potter says that her work encourages these “isomorphic connections” in order to see in a new way.

    Screen Shot 2015-03-01 at 12.20.27 AM( Mysterious Angles – Indian Effigies, the fifth of the six Isomorphic Map Tables. )

    At the entrance wall to Patterns of Place, visitors find themselves in front of a mirror where they stand and look straight ahead, yet do not see themselves. Although they are standing there, they are not visible in the mirror, however they are still connected to the mirror because there they stand, searching for themselves. The same can be found in the mirror in the Isomorphic Map Table Mysterious Angles – Indian Effigies. This is the kind of exploration Hofstadter discusses and Potter’s work encourages.

    Untitled( detail of the angle of disappearance in Mysterious Angles – Indian Effigies )

    I look for visual patterns in different categories and imagine what might be in the space between. I look into things that are similar or perhaps different in the same way. One of the similarities between artist and scientist is the ‘aha!’ moment! It is what keeps the artist and the scientist alive.”

                                                                – Patricia Boinest Potter

    The between is what is similar between the scientist and the artist, and is what inspires Potter to create. In her words, “I observe, I read, I learn, I teach, I look at art, I write, I make art. Connections are made. Sometimes they make my heart leap. They make me see in a new way.” Just as Hofstadter’s work brought in a new perspective to understand the “I” and development of the self, Potter’s work provides us with a new lens to understand our surroundings and experiences and their ultimate effect on the self.

    By Meagan Carter, Halsey Institute Intern

    DOES SHE HAVE TIME FOR ANYTHING ELSE? | Tue. Feb. 10, 2015

    Through investigating and studying Patricia Boinest Potter’s other projects and bodies of work, we can see that the Isomorphic Map Tables are a distillation of her life’s work. He pursuit of light, shadow, time, and motion is evident in each piece.

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    One piece is Lambent Ways, the Stewart Memorial Installation at the First Methodist Church in Anniston. The memorial encompasses the 40-foot canopy of a 30 square foot entrance to The Bridge, a community service building of the church. This building provides services to the local community; soup kitchens, sport facilities, and youth activities.

    Lambent Ways might be seen from different angles and interpreted in many different ways, as the installation is tied to the fluctuations of sunlight and it interacting with the light from the video projection. The light from the sun transforms the video into a barely visible movement across the wall while casting changing shadows of the cloud of wire mesh throughout the day. Viewing the piece at dawn is a completely different experience compared with midday, dusk, etc.

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    Here are some great videos that document the light fluctuations.

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    Here are a few other installations Potter has completed over the years. We can see evidence of her interests and investigations in each piece, an obsessive search she has questioned through out her career. She has worked with similar materials and concepts in each installation. You can see more images of these projects on the artist’s website.

     

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    Overlays of Memory

     

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    Spiral Hallway

     

    By Lizz Biswell curator of education an public programs

    Mystery: mystory | Thu. Feb. 5, 2015

    Patricia Potter developed a curious fascination many years back regarding our role in space and the matter that compiles it. Potter’s deeply conceptual relationship with the artwork she creates has proven to be intoxicating for its viewers here at The Halsey, inspiring philosophical thought and reflection. In a wave of overwhelming appreciation for the works, I sat down with Potter’s personal sketchbooks, which provided intimate insight into the evolution of her solo exhibition “Patterns of Place.” Throughout the pages of a small, grey felted sketchbook, I found myself engaged in Potter’s thoughts back in 2004 when she began her questions of our connectivity with the universe.

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    “Map: connecting the physical/emotional/political interconnected worlds of matter and spirit (mo(ve)ment) point…line” – in a simple, eloquent definition, the entire exhibition was set in motion. Since divulging into the intimate depths of her sketchbooks, I’ve viewed the works in a profoundly different way – I see her passion for theory, her struggle for good health, her self-exploration and desire to blossom into the unknown. Her vulnerability and question of where her life would lead her next was almost comforting as many, if not everyone, has had an internal struggle to overcome a challenge of sorts. Her work has proven to be representative of herself as a person – the context, the composition, and the media, all represent her world – “there is a clear glass between me and the work, there is a clear glass/temple inside of my body.”

    (First lesson) “Not what you see but why you see it – the wizard doesn’t think, she sees…”

                – Patricia Boinsett Potter (2004)

    When viewing the isomorphic map tables, it all comes together. Potter creates the works to represent her life outside of herself, drawing herself back in by looking affectionately through the glass “table top.” In a word, the work is cyclical in its abstract interpretation of her basic personal character. Although it was not specified, I would conclude to deem Potter as the Wizard of “Patterns of Place” taking what she has seen, observing her surroundings, producing the works, and then reflecting on her product. Like the dark matter that encompasses our universe, we may be ever searching for the meaning and purpose of the life we are given, and Potter has provided great argument for the beauty in the search for a deeper meaning.

     

    By Lillie Weatherford, Halsey Institute Intern

    A VISIT TO ALABAMA | Tue. Feb. 3, 2015

    Patricia Boinest Potter’s work is focused on a 100 miles stretch of Alabama, from Mount Cheaha to Little River Canyon. For folks that are from this area or have visited before, it is a landscape that remains burned on your soul. For those of us that have not had the pleasure yet, the area can seem a little nebulous. We’ve search for a few good images of the 100-mile stretch to help orient our visitors.

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    One of the Isomorphic Map Tables is titled Little River Canyon. Here is a comparison of the Map Table and the waterfall and swimming area of Little River Canyon National Preserve.

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    Another area is Coldwater Mountain, a mecca for the International Mountain Biking Association. Potter created a Map Table dedicated to this area as well. Below is her piece and images take by mountain bikers on the area’s famous trails.

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    Mount Cheaha is the highest point in Alabama and a short drive from Potter’s home in Anniston.

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    While you’ve undoubtedly read, Potter lives in a treehouse. Which, after seeing these images of Anniston’s downtown, seems very out of place with the surroundings. One of our great interns will post about Potter’s studio/home, so make sure to check back!

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    By Lizz Biswell, curator of education and public programs

    MURMURATIONS TO MUSIC | Thu. Jan. 29, 2015

    One of the main catalysts for Patricia Boinest Potter’s Isomorphic Map Tables was when she witnessed and began to research a murmuration of starlings. Of course, as the curator of education and trainer of the Halsey Institute’s Looking to See visitor engagement specialists, I wanted to make sure each tour guide knew and understood the beauty of this event. I was not disappointed by my Internet research.

    To further edify this phenomenon’s gravitas, I realized that a soundtrack accompanied almost every video that people from around the globe have uploaded of murmurations they filmed. It is as if each person was trying to match the stunning visual display with a musical score that mimicked the birds’ seemingly erratic movements, to create their own artistic response to this natural wonder.

    Here is one video that has a good camera angle and clarity to save you from wading through pages of search results.

    By Lizz Biswell, curator of education and public programs

    HOW CAN I DESCRIBE TO YOU WHAT THIS IS? | Tue. Jan. 27, 2015

    In addition to creating the artwork in her exhibition, Patricia Boinest Potter writes prose and poetry inspired by and focused on her pieces. We’ve included the prose she wrote for the six Isomorphic Map Tables and one hundred 1:1 Map Insets in our exhibition catalogue. However, here are the artist’s descriptions of the Isomorphic Map Tables she gave to her town’s newspaper, The Anniston Star. Interestingly, she does not give a “more straightforward” description of Little River Canyon!

     

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    MOBIUS MIGRATIONS

    This table serves as an introduction to all the rest, setting up the ideas of mapping and motion.

    In searching for movement, Pat Potter discovered the murmuration of starlings. A murmuration is a magical event in which a massive flock of starlings move as one, flying in constantly shifting patterns across the sky.

    Potter then discovered that the same patterns of movement exists in a peloton, the main group of riders in a bicycle road race.

    “Between the two, I immediately saw the movement of the Mobius strip — a flat strip twisted and glued so that the inside is turned out.” explained Potter.

    Swirling endlessly in the middle of this table are two intertwined Mobius strips made of Plexiglass.

    A contour map at the bottom of the table is carved from roofing aluminum (more commonly used to roof trailers).

    The next layer is a piece of Plexiglass carved with a map of rivers. In bright light, the shadows of the rivers fall onto the contours of the land below.

    Circular pegs mark important places on the map.

    Suspended above are tiny, delicate triangles of metal mesh, which represent the starlings.

    The relationship between the movement of the Mobius strip and the movement of the starlings is what mathematics would call an “isomorphic” connection, in which things are equal but not identical. “Something that plays a role in one category can be mapped on top of something in another category that plays the same role.” said Potter.

     

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    COLDWATER MOUNTAIN

    Coldwater Mountain in Anniston is becoming the site of a world-class system of mountain bike trails, promising to draw cyclists from all over the country. Here, the mountain is represented by a large piece of driftwood, whose whorls look like a contour map. Underneath, Coldwater Springs is represented by shiny pieces of mica. Spirals made of copper tubing sit next to the fossilized spiral shells of ammonites, both of which mimic the movement of bicycle wheels. 

     

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    BOOGER HOLLOW, A MICROCOSM

    This table maps the small slice of land between Pat Potter’s house and Booger Hollow in Anniston. When Potter was a little girl, Booger Hollow was her favorite place. Later, all grown up and looking for a place to build a house/studio, Potter discovered a piece of land that connected to Booger Hollow.

    The map begins at Potter’s home and follows the contours of the land and a stream through the forest to springs and waterfalls. At the Booger Hollow end is a tiny photograph of Potter and her father. He was a circus acrobat before he became an architect. In the photo, Pat is about 1 year old, and her father is teaching her how to fall. He holds her high above his head, balanced in the palm of one hand. “He’d hold me straight up in the air, tell me to make a ball, and then he’d toss me and catch me right before the ground.” Potter remembered.

    Twisting, falling, but always controlled – like a Mobius strip or a murmuration of starlings.

     

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    LITTLE RIVER CANYON

    A line of water first makes a wet mark on rock. Pulled by gravity it follows the contour of the surface. Then carves a line, a canyon that defines time. Little River Canyon is such a mark. It identifies the nature of time. It is the only river that forms and flows for almost all of its entire length on the top of a mountain.

     

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    INDIAN EFFIGIES/MYSTERIOUS ANGLES

    Skeleton Mountain in Anniston is littered with traces of the Native Americans who first peopled Calhoun County: mounds, stone walls, a path in the shape of a snake. “The walls could be 200 years old, they could be 2,000 years old,” said Potter, who visited the site with an archeologist from Jacksonville State University. “No one knows what they’re for.”

    For the base of this table, Potter carved walls in descending layers, somewhat like an amphitheater.

    In the middle of the table are two mirrors arranged at what Potter calls “the angle of disappearance.” If you stand in just the right spot, you can’t see yourself anymore. You disappear.

    Potter discovered the effect by happenstance while on a tour of the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles. She came home to her studio and played around with mirrors until she found just the right angle.

     

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    SECRET STUDIOS

    This table maps the location of artists’ studios in the area. It’s also about alchemy, the medieval version of chemistry, which attempted to transform matter and turn lead into gold. Layers upon layers of green glass make the whole table glow with color, a reference to the Emerald Tablet, an ancient text that, with its layers upon layers of meaning, has been associated with everything from alchemy to the relationship between the macrocosm and the microcosm. “Alchemy is not really about transforming elements,” said Potter. “It’s about self-transformation.”

     

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